Recreational Marijuana Legalization Takes Step Forward

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TRENTON – A bill that would legalize recreational marijuana use for adults passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today and will now be voted on by the full Senate.

The bill, S-2703, would legalize adults 21 and older to use limited amounts of the drug, and would also expunge some past convictions. The bill was approved 7-4, with two abstentions, according to a press release from the state Democrats. Gov. Phil Murphy had made legalization a campaign promise, and Senate President Steve Sweeney had co-sponsored the bill. The two Democrats had disagreed on the details of how legalization would work.

“Marijuana is already being sold and used but it is the dealers who are running the drug trade and they are selling marijuana that is sometimes laced with other products,” Sweeney said in a press release. “We developed a plan that will put in place rules and regulations that allow for adult use cannabis in a responsible way. As a regulated product, legal marijuana will be safe and controlled.”

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Details of the Bill

Under the bill, if it is enacted as is, the following details will be made into law:

  • It will be legal for adults 21 and older to have up to one ounce of marijuana, up to 16 ounces of it infused in solid form, up to 72 ounces in liquid form, or up to seven grams of concentrate.
  • Possession of more than one ounce will result in a $50 civil penalty, not a criminal prosecution.
  • People who were previously convicted could have their record expunged.
  • Impact zones would be established in towns that rank in the top 15 percent in unemployment, bottom 33 percent in medium income, and have a certain crime index: Atlantic City, Bridgeton, Camden, East Orange, Hamilton Twp, Irvington, Newark, Millville, Passaic, Paterson, Perth Amboy, Plainfield, Trenton, Vineland, Elizabeth and Jersey City. Of the licenses for establishments selling marijuana, 25 percent of the people who will be awarded must live in these areas, regardless of where the shop will be.
  • At least 30 percent of the businesses selling marijuana will be owned by minorities, disabled veterans, and women.
  • A Cannabis Regulatory Commission will provide oversight. They will establish the number of cannabis retailers and other licenses, track the transfer and sale, regulate purchases, advertising, and other aspects of the business.
  • There would be a 12 percent excise tax on cannabis products, with an additional 2 percent tax on products going to the local town.

Each municipality will be given 180 days after enactment to decide to prohibit cannabis establishments in its city. The municipality will be allowed to prohibit certain types of facilities, while allowing others.